Scaling Your Small or Medium Sized Business SMB

Noticing more orders and work orders coming in lately, but not quite sure how to handle it yet? 

This is often a sign that it may be time to scale your business. 

Depending on your niche and market, scaling a business could mean having to upgrade your workflow automation software to enhance cross-organization communication between your entire staff as your company gets busier and has to hire more people to keep the order queue refreshed.

Or, scaling might mean the opportunity to place that order for the higher quantity of product from the manufacturer to get your price per item down since per shipment. You’re reasonably sure customer demand is there for the next 6 months, but you just don’t know how to fulfill 25 – 30 orders a day with labeling, packaging, shipping, and tracking by yourself. 

And what happens if one day this week, you get 50 – 75 orders? Will you be able to meet that demand without your entire business going off the rails?

Key Takeaways:

  • Businesses must learn to scale in order to meet higher demand without sacrificing process and quality, while keeping operations smooth, inventory updated, and engaged, motivated staff in position to handle the increased volume
  • Many business scaling solutions involve automating as much of your existing processes as you can now to ensure you have the ability to rapidly scale both up and down as needed without losing valuable business aspects and offerings
  • Task automation and employee/scheduling software, third party logistics (3PL) fulfillment, affiliate networks, and other digital channels like Google Shopping and Google Merchant Center can provide businesses with extra flexibility and greater reach to successfully scale

Taking on the extra load without a plan to scale your business could result in a lot of unhappy customers if they don’t get their order correct and on time. Or trying to keep everyone on the same page and organized with additions of new workers could cause a conflict that puts them at odds with your existing workforce. 

A failed attempt to scale properly could even result in a warehouse full of unpurchased products, with longterm storage fees to rack up for unused inventory. 

Today we’ll go over some ways to scale your business without getting overwhelmed and give you some definitive strategies and tools to help you scale your business now.

Scaling Your Small and Medium Sized Business (SMB)

When people think about scaling a business, they often assume it means you’re experiencing growth. That’s true, and often, scaling is related to growth, though sometimes it’s related to negative growth. We need to be prepared for both in business, as being prepared for one usually prepares us for the other, should the time come.

“If you develop an understanding of the archetypal challenges associated with rapid scaling, you can build in design for scalability. There are decisions you can make early to mitigate risk.”

Harvard Business School Professor Jeffrey Rayport

Scaling is a way to grow your business to the next level in a sustainable way that sets you and your customer up for longterm success without a significant loss in efficiency or profitability.

4 Keys to Successfully Scaling Your Business

So much of a company’s ability to scale depends on a strong foundation, as well as longterm strategic vision.

  • The Right Staff, Vision, and Culture –  Make sure that your staff and executive leadership are all on the same page. Higher quality employees do far better work than the average, so pick quality over quantity in the beginning. Then, ensure you have set the example and you’ve created an already cohesive team that “knows the code” regarding company culture. That way, you’ll have a reasonable idea beforehand of how your staff will handle certain situations.
  • Willingness to Innovate and Automate – It’s going to take speed and a lot of different moving pieces and parts to come together in order to scale. Is your team already happy for the most part and functioning at their best? This will help when it comes to the inherent challenges and mistakes that occur along the way. Teamwork will also be greatly facilitated by having the proper task and project management software in place that allows rapid communication and access to the customer/order details for everyone in the workflow.

Upgrading your CRM or task management software can provide a central hub that keeps the whole team unified and on track as they push orders through the fulfillment chain. Having built-in training and onboarding in your operations software will also help you rapidly scale the size of your workforce. Considering labor is the biggest cost of most businesses, you can save hours and significant amounts of money not leaving this part to chance.

  • Get Rid of What You Don’t Need – The most crucial aspect of scaling involves eliminating future possibilities of supply chain bottlenecks, fulfillment misses, and negative reviews from bad customer experiences with your brand. You’re taking the time now to set yourself up for somewhat predictable, manageable and controlled growth to avoid “too much, too fast” which could result in the wrong types of customers.

This could mean that instead of spending a ton of money on having your own fulfillment warehouse, workers, and associated costs, you could outsource your order processing and fulfillment completely. This way, you only pay for the square footage you actually use and you use a private third party logistics center.

  • Keep Your Eye on the Quality and Value You Provide Consumers – Keep your attention on what already works and how you can improve it when scaling up a business. Remember, there’s a core component of what you give customers that’s a hit. Don’t ever lose sight of the key components driving demand for your product or service. The more you focus on why it works and how you can make it better, the more likely you are to make it truly great– and something that reaches mass adoption someday.
  • Be Prepared to Seek Temporary Financing and Add Money to Your Marketing Budget – It’s never fun to take out a loan, especially for business. But you’ll likely need to at varying points in the scaling process, as making everything bigger means bigger bucks. Evaluate your credit and financing sources ahead of time, and don’t take out any more money than you need with a loan. You might be tempted to spend it. Loans should only be taken out if you’re sure you can pay off a significant amount of the principal in the near-future. However, loans can be useful if they prevent you from dipping into savings and causing financial difficulty for you.

Also, by increasing your marketing, you’ll likely get more customers, but if you’ve done the other steps right, you’ll now have the logistics in place ahead of time to meet increased demand from running ads or influencer campaigns.

Those are just some of the most important parts of scaling your business. Let’s talk about some specific solutions and how they’ll help you next.

Business Scaling With Software

We’ll need access to some good business intelligence tools, analytics and software at an affordable price with the ability to add extra features later as needed. 

You can start right away with the best free CRM and free task management and workflow software. Small business tools like these can really help your overall growth and retention strategy. While they’re free, ugrading to a paid plan later will likely be worth it once you see the full scope of its capabilities and what it will do for your inbound marketing and operations.

Good task automation and workflow software helps you:

  • Stay organized and keep staff aware of currently assigned tasks
  • Track an entire team or organization’s projects on a timeline in a centralized place with controllable levels of access to mitigate risk
  • Prevent bottlenecks and lost time due to unnecessary back and forth
  • Discover new opportunities in your company’s typical project workflow
  • Automate old processes once and for all with task templates, custom forms, and recurring tasks

With the right intelligence analytics, you’ll be able to use customer data and feedback in real time to see how customers are responding to your business scaling as it happens. This could be very helpful in managing customer expectations during a big transition and keeping communications open, as well as giving fans of your brand another opportunity to share news about your company that could lead to sales.

Customers will often be very understanding for logistical realities, but they have to know about them first. Stay transparent and be willing to make a few mistakes along the way. If an order goes awry, be willing to step in with a personal touch and make it right by offering an immediate discount or something free with their order. That’s also why it’s a great idea to have automated AI chat support software for both customer inquiries and technical support issues.

Business Scaling with Third Party Logistics (3PL) and Fulfillment

Third-party logistics operations include warehouses for your products, inventory control, and order fulfillment facilities that are built to scale. 3PLs are at the center of the supply chain, providing flexibility for business owners at a nominal charge. The receiving, storage, and shipping of merchandise are essential elements for the growth of firms that rely on these logistics businesses—especially in the case of supply chain management, which can be challenging.

The outsourcing of these specific responsibilities has fallen to third-party fulfillment services known as 3PLs, or third-party logistics warehouses, as the specialization of logistics functions has become essential for many organizations, particularly with the rise of ecommerce and omnichannel fulfilled networks. 

A 3PL will handle tasks for a business so they don’t have to waste time on them, such as cycle counts, labeling, inventory reporting during high turnover, and shipping alerts to customers every step of the way after they complete their order. They also mean you don’t have to handle physical product any more yourself.

Imagine processing and shipping orders automatically, even while you’re asleep or out of the country traveling. With third party logistics, you can send a big order straight from the manufacturer to the 3PL warehouse where they’ll store, sort, pick, pack, and ship for you every time they receive a notification of an order– all on autopilot, too.

3PLs do this for your product alongside thousands of others, all stored in the same warehouse. Leveraging another business’s expertise for this aspect of your business can result in serious scaling. Ensuring your payment processor API is linked to your 3PL service provider to ensure they get your sales information to fulfill orders.

The Benefits of Using a 3PL for Supply Chain Management and Order Fulfillment

Businesses may find it challenging and stressful to ship internationally. Customs, freight forwarding, and consolidation are examples of international shipping logistics issues that a 3PL can handle to free up your time and resources for those procedures. A third party logistics provider works to ensure that all trade compliance requirements are met, costs are managed, and execution goes according to schedule as a representative of a customer’s business. 

Furthermore, 3PLs frequently offer insight into problems that arise when shipping internationally. Documentation, duties, customs, and various shipping regulations are a few of these problems. The stress of trying to adhere to global shipping regulations can also be reduced by working with a third-party logistics company. 

Working with a 3PL can also help you save money on transportation, increase efficiency, and create solutions for challenging supply chain issues. Additionally, third party logistics providers are frequently able to offer real-time visibility to your inventory as it is in motion thanks to connectivity to various supply chain operations phases.

  • Automatically selects the best shipping options for you and completes necessary documentation – All the fastest, cheapest, and most reliable shipping options are made available to you. 3PLs also take care of all the freight documents and compliance when processing international orders to ensure they’ll get past customs when they reach their destination.
  • Faster shipping through a network- You’ll ship faster to customers based on the geographic location where your goods are stored. 3PLs like Amazon and others often have several warehouses located in different parts of the country or world from where your goods will ship, based on order criteria. 
  • Better inventory management –Your 3PL will send you notifications when they receive your wholesale delivery of goods as well as when your inventory is running low. This can help you plan out your future production runs better to meet schedule without putting a squeeze on this month’s budget.
  • Pay only for the warehouse space and staff when you need it – An organization can scale space, labor, and transportation in accordance with current inventory when using a 3PL. They frequently make the transition between seasonal times and industry fluctuations easier to manage as well.

Businesses may find it challenging and stressful to ship internationally. Customs, freight forwarding, and consolidation are examples of international shipping logistics issues that a 3PL can handle to free up your time and resources for those procedures. A third party logistics provider works to ensure that all trade compliance requirements are met, costs are managed, and execution goes according to schedule as a representative of a customer’s business. 

Furthermore, 3PLs frequently offer insight into problems that arise when shipping internationally. Documentation, duties, customs, and various shipping regulations are a few of these problems. The stress of trying to adhere to global shipping regulations can also be reduced by working with a third-party logistics company. 

4PLs are similar to 3PLs in the sense that they usually oversee all aspects of your 3PL and much, if not the rest of your entire supply chain, for you. Additionally, some businesses offer 3PL consultancy services, as companies often overpay in their 3PL contracts due to a lack of direct knowledge with best practices from transportation fleet and field experts. 

Some Popular 3PLs and 4PLs to Consider:

  • DHL
  • ShipBob
  • Uber Freight
  • EasyShip
  • Shipware

Working with a 3PL can also help you save money on transportation, increase efficiency, and create solutions for challenging supply chain issues. Additionally, third party logistics providers are frequently able to offer real-time visibility to your inventory as it is in motion thanks to connectivity to various supply chain operations phases.

How to Scale Your Business by Expanding Your Digital Marketing Footprint

When searching for something, people always use search engines, primarily Google. It’s crucial to pay attention to Google’s requirements if you want to improve your digital footprint. What exactly does the algorithm search for? In order for the appropriate people to connect with your brand when they are looking for a product, service, or an answer to a question, you want to rank highly on the search engine results page (SERP). 

90% of searchers never scroll past the first page of results when using Google, so you really want to get your brand there. It’s simple to strike up a conversation and encourage someone to learn more about you when you’re on the first page. People look online first when searching for something, so if you don’t prioritize your online presence, you could be missing out on important connections. 

Even if you run a website and occasionally post on social media, you might not be doing everything you can to inspire and engage your audience. That’s why it helps to understand the web assets that Google loves so you include them on your site to boost your business on the first page of Google for important keywords related to your business.

Free and Easy 2-Step Plan to Make Your Business Show Up Better in Google Right Away

The following information is free and simple, but it only works if you put it directly to use for your business. Take action on the next two items and reap the rewards for years to come.

Google Business Profile

  1. Claim and optimize your Google Business profile:  
  • When you upload your business photos to Google Business, include your business brand name, keyword and geographical information when saving the photos before you upload them to Google. This added optimization helps Google’s algorithm understand your business better and will increase your probability for higher rankings in the search engines.
  • Adding your business website URL to your business listing is a powerful, easy backlink and free opportunity to get website visitors from a source of warm leads.

Google Shopping and Google Merchant Center 

  1. Claim your free Google Merchant Center account:
  • You can freely add your productsto Google if you have a Merchant Center account. When customers search for items similar to yours on Google Search, Maps, YouTube, and other platforms, your listings may show up. This is a great, free opportunity to make sales.
  • You can automatically add your products to Google when you link your e-commerce store to Merchant Center. Plus, any future changes you make to products are automatically synced to Google.

Google often finds your products and displays them according to schema, or “rich results.” For instance, the FAQ section at the bottom of this page appears as normal text on a page, but it is also designated as FAQ schema at the code level, which helps Google serve it as rich results in the search engines in a different format.

Adding your products along with crystal-clear product images, their SKUs, variations, colors, and sizes, in the format that Google Merchant Center requires means that you qualify to be shown in the product schema section of a Google search results page. This is also a great option for owners of Shopify-based websites and stores.

The Synergetic Power of Free Google Tools + Rich Snippets for Your Site

Now imagine that you’re also ranking organically in the top 10 results because you’ve done your SEO content and backlinking strategy, your brand logo also shows up in the rich results visually because you’ve tagged it properly in the code, one of your site’s FAQs shows up in the “People Also Ask” section as well, your business shows up as a location, and your products listed with Google show up, all at once.

This kind of single-channel marketing domination is all made possible by a little extra effort and free tools from Google, which you certainly should be taking full advantage of. Because only a handful of businesses really utilize these channels fully, you’ll be an early adopter. 

Remember: those who get to the party early get all the party favors.

Leverage Affiliate Networks to Expand and Scale Your Business

The risk of using affiliate marketing as a business owner or marketer is very low, but the rewards are high. Affiliates bring visitors to your site and are only compensated when someone converts to a lead signup or a sale. You don’t have to pay them just for sending people to your website.

Complex tracking known as “pixels” and “cookies” usually offer a 30-day window so the affiliate gets the initial credit for bringing the visitor to your site. This way, if the visitor doesn’t buy immediately but returns to finish a transaction another day, your affiliate still gets credit for the lead and the sale.

Affiliate Marketing Benefits for Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMB)

Use of affiliate marketing has a number of benefits, especially for new businesses: 

  • Only pay for outcomes, not marketing legwork. 
  • It might be much more economical in the long run compared to other forms of marketing like buying lots of ads or influencer campaigns, which may only run for a short time.
  • The ability of affiliates to write copy and target audiences may actually be better than yours. Why would someone spend time and money signing up to be an affiliate if they don’t think they can bring you customers? It’s your chance to profit from other marketers’ abilities and expertise.
  • You are aware of your acquisition cost, which will enable you to ascertain whether you are actually losing money or profiting. You almost never lose money. 

Downsides to Affiliate Marketing for Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMB)

Affiliate marketing is not a silver bullet, however. For instance, there are a few downsides:

  • Lack of control over affiliates’ message about your brand, product, and promises
  • Lack of control and oversight where links to your product will be placed, which could lead to brand reputation and perception issues
  • Lack of compliance by affiliates with the FTC
  • Exploitation of your company’s critical information obtained during the research process

For the most part, affiliate marketing is a great way to get hungry, skilled promoters to do the work to put your offer in front of consumers. To prevent some of the most common problems, don’t approve everyone who applies to be your affiliate. Do a brief background check of each potential affiliate to see their plans for marketing your affiliate offer. 

You can set rules and practices ahead of time to ensure potential affiliates know the ground rules when promoting your products. Make sure they’re not cannibalizing your brand keywords and terms with PPC ads as well. 

But whenever affiliates are dishonest or unethical, you should get rid of them as soon as possible. Do an occasional checkup on your affiliates sites’ and activities to proactively reduce any risk or potential for problems.

Affiliate Networks You Can Join Right Now to Help Scale Your Business Up

An affiliate network, also known as a CPA (cost per acquisition) network, credits and pays out authorized affiliates promoting product links for merchants whenever someone either signs up and gives over their contact information or makes a purchase. The affiliate’s unique identifer link is recognized and attributed.

Some of the  best affiliate networks include:

  • Commission Junction (CJ)
  • JVZoo
  • ShareASale
  • oDigger
  • Pepperjam

I personally belong to I’ve been working with them for over 8 years now as a publisher and affiliate. Their interface is easy to use, there’s good products and services to promote available, and they pay on time. 

Protect Your Business With Insurance as You Scale

Having the right business insurance can protect your business appropriately as it grows. The more money you make, the more you have to protect your assets and business infrastructure.

Conclusion: Scaling Your Small or Medium Sized Business (SMB)

A key turning point in the life cycle of a startup or any business is achieving product-market fit. Your product has been validated when you have identified the appropriate market and created a solution for it, one that addresses and meets an unmet need or problem. 

You are now prepared to expand, bring on your first customers, and make sales. This also signals the start of the more thrilling, difficult, and frequently terrifying part of running a business: scaling it up.

Plan ahead to make the process a moment to celebrate, not a time to dread.

Frequently Asked Questions – Scaling Your Small or Medium Sized Business (SMB)

When is the right time to scale your business?

Scaling your business means designing your products and operations to serve a bigger market and more demand. Scaling allows business owners to break free from the time-consuming job of owner-operator and automate the biggest components in the supply chain.Scaling Your Small or Medium Sized Business SMB

What are some things I can do to scale my business?

Utilize free resources like a free crm, free task management and workflow software, Google Merchant Center, Google Business Profile, 3PL for fulfillment and logistics, and affiliate networks to scale up your business operations to meet greater demand while optimizing and automating your infrastructure and marketing reach.

How would my small or medium sized business benefit from a 3PL?

Third party logistics or 3PLs can save you money by automating your inventory management, shipping, and order tracking logistics. 3PLs and 3PL consultants often know how to obtain the best rates from shipping companies like FedEx and DHL. 3PLs store your product in their warehouse along with other companies’ products and send your product to the customer when a sale occurs on your website, all automatically.